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Facts and Myths About Nutrition

Food Facts

Myth #1: Eating late at night will make you gain weight.

Fact: Calories are calories--no matter what time they're eaten. There is no magic hour in which your body decides that incoming calories must be stored as fat.

Bottom Line: What you eat--and how much--is far more important than when you eat it. But do make a point to spread your food intake out over the day to sustain your energy.

Myth #2: Eating extra protein builds muscle.

Fact: "To build muscle, you must have three key components: adequate calories, a good intake of protein and a good strength program," says registered dietitian and American Dietetic Association spokesperson Roberta Anding, a certified specialist in sports dietetics. Without enough calories, "some of the dietary protein will be used as an energy source." Likewise, protein intake beyond your needs will either be stored as fat or burned for energy.

Bottom Line: To build muscle, you need to eat a healthy diet, which includes a normal amount of protein, and strength train regularly.

Myth #3: If you're craving certain foods, it's because your body needs the nutrients they provide.

Fact: If this were true, more people would be craving fruits and vegetables, your best source for many vitamins and minerals.  Ask yourself what could be contributing to cravings. Consider biological signals like hunger and environmental cues such as smells and television commercials.

Bottom Line: We have cravings for all kinds of reasons. If you focus on those good-for-you foods first, a little junk every now and then won't hurt.

Myth #4: Eating fish is the best way to get heart-healthy omega-3 fats.

Fact: Fish and marine-based supplements are the only ways to get EPA and DHA, two important omega-3 fatty acids.  However, walnuts, flaxseed, canola oil, soybeans and some other plant foods offer ALA, a third omega-3 fatty acid. You need all three types of omega-3 fats for optimal health. 

Bottom Line: For optimal health, include both fish- and plant-based omega-3 sources in your diet.

Myth #5: Dark breads are more nutritious than white breads.

Fact: "You can't judge a bread by its color. You need to read the list of ingredients and look at the nutrition facts panel," says Neville. The first ingredient listed should be 100 percent whole wheat or other whole grain (such as barley or oats). "Enriched wheat flour" is the long way to say white flour. Sometimes darker breads will have caramel or other coloring added, so you're getting nothing more than a colored white bread, says Neville.

Bottom Line: Choose breads with the first ingredient listed as 100 percent whole wheat or other whole grain--such as barley or oats.

Myth #6: Water is all I need to rehydrate after exercise.

Fact: If you sweat a lot during exercise or other work, then you'll likely need extra sodium along with your fluids. Since sweat contains water, sodium and other electrolytes, rehydration requires more than water. Sports drinks provide small amounts of sodium--roughly 50 to 200 milligrams in 8 ounces--and are often critical during activities lasting an hour or more. But they will not suffice for recovery. Make some of your recovery foods salty like pretzels, crackers and soup.

Bottom Line: Drink small amounts of a sports drink throughout a workout lasting longer than an hour, and consume salty foods and water afterward.

Additional resources:

American Dietetics Association

Active.com

Kidshealth.org


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